Tuesday, June 1, 2010
One of the most depressing aspects of the Gulf of Mexico oil leak is the idea that we've got no choice but to rely on offshore drilling and the stomach-turning dangers it carries. We know all the problems with importing oil from petro-dictatorships. Electric cars aren't ready to replace fuel-combustion engines. The only option, political leaders tell us, is for Americans to choke down the occasional drilling catastrophe and deal with the ugly consequences.
"Accidents happen," said Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). "You learn from them and you try not to make sure they don't happen again."
"I doubt this is the first accident that has happened and I doubt it will be the last," said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.
"The reality of it is that we will be depending on oil and gas as we transition to a new energy future," Ken Salazar, President Obama's Interior secretary, told a Senate panel last week. "You are not going to turn off the lights of this country or the economy by shutting it all down."
Is it true that we've got no alternative?
The last time lawmakers truly freaked out about the problem of our oil dependence--when gas prices topped $4 a gallon in the summer of 2008--the Senate Energy Committee called in Skip Laitner, director of economic analysis at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).
The committee asked Laitner what efficiency--the famously unglamorous energy strategy--could do to relieve gas prices. He gave them an astonishing figure: It could save 46 billion barrels of oil. If the U.S. made an all-out investment in energy efficiency-cutting energy waste out of vehicles, buildings, the electrical grid, and elsewhere in the economy--Laitner believes it could save the energy equivalent of 46 billion barrels by 2030.
Domestic offshore drilling produced 537 million barrels a year over the last nine years, according to the Minerals Management Service. A full-bore efficiency plan would save the equivalent of 85 years of offshore drilling.
Looking at the transportation sector alone, Laitner recommended 10 short-term policies that would cut the need for oil. Congress eventually passed one of them-the "cash for clunkers" program. Even that could be improved upon: the lax fuel-economy standards for new cars meant the trade-in program didn't save nearly as much fuel as it could have
If you're tired of dead sea turtles, oil-coated marshlands, destroyed fisheries, disputes over leak rates, political cop-outs, terms like tar balls and junk shots (OK, those are funny), these are for you:
10 solutions to our oil addiction
1. A better "cash for clunkers." Last summer's popular program took hundreds of thousands of low-performing autos off the road, but its low standards for the fuel economy of eligible new cars made it more of an auto-industry bailout than an environmental boon. A two-year version that gave credit for only truly efficient new vehicles (35 mpg or better) would save more oil. Congress could pay for it by extending the 1978 gas guzzler tax to light trucks and SUVs--it currently applies only to passenger cars.
2. Emergency funding for endangered mass transit. A chilling 59 percent of public transit networks have cut service or raised fares (or both) since January 2009, pushing more commuters into cars. Congress could save both oil and jobs by preserving existing bus and rail lines with emergency funding.
3. A national telecommuting and videoconferencing initiative. Encouraging employees to work from home and cut back on business travel would cut fuel usage, save them money and commuting time, and probably make a lot of them happier. Congress could direct federal workers to telecommute and videoconference as much as possible. For everyone else, a campaign would help make these things more normative and socially acceptable.
4. Smarter freight movement. Congress could commission a study to explore a grab-bag of methods to lighten the impact of trucking and rail and jet shipping. "Heavy trucks might save 32 percent of energy use through a combination of improved fuel efficiencies, and better coordination to reduce empty backhauls and unnecessary travel," Laitner writes in a journal article [PDF] Train design that reduces aerodynamic drag and collects energy from braking (as a Prius does) could produce more savings.
5. Smarter land use. Congress could direct (and help fund) local government efforts to update zoning and land-use regulations in ways that encourage compact development compatible with transit service and friendly to walkers and bikers. (Obama's Partnership for Sustainable Communities is already taking steps in this direction.)
In times of national crisis, Americans look to the President to lead -- and to deliver. That's why President Obama was absolutely correct to make it crystal clear that he is personally responsible to deal with the oil spill crisis -- and has told his Administration to spare no effort to stop the leak, oversee the cleanup, and assure that BP completely compensates the massive number of victims.
Increasingly sharp criticism has been leveled at the President because BP has so far been unable to stop the leak. The problem, of course, is that most of the critics have few suggestions about what the Administration might do that it isn't doing.
And it is down right remarkable that the critics, include Republicans like Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who less that two years ago were joining Republican oil industry "expert" Sarah Palin in the juvenile Republican convention chant "Drill Baby Drill!"
"Drill Baby Drill!" was not just intended to promote more offshore oil drilling. It was intended to mock Democratic concerns for the environmental impact of offshore drilling. It was intended to dismiss their opposition to drilling as stupid, "tree-hugging," anti-growth, "elite" concerns. It was intended to mock those who feared that offshore drilling would despoil our natural resources. It was intended to label them -- in the words of the late Republican Vice-President Spiro Agnew -- as "effete, nattering nabobs of negativism" -- part of the "chablis and brie" set that is completely disconnected from the lives of ordinary Americans who drink beer, work hard and get their hands dirty producing the products and the food we need in our everyday lives.
Of course things haven't turned out that way. The victims of the BP oil disaster are the shrimpers and the oystermen -- the people who own the mom and pop restaurants and coffee shops -- the folks who drive their pickup trucks to a job in the tourist industry along the Mississippi coast. The real victims are the fathers who want to take their sons hunting in the Louisiana wetlands the way their father took them.
And the real beneficiaries of the Bush-Cheney-Republican energy policy have not been ordinary Americans -- they are the giant oil companies that have become economic behemoths by encouraging the world's addiction to oil and preventing the development of energy alternatives that would end our dependence.
The fact is that while Big Oil has been polluting the Gulf with what now appears to be 12,000 to 19,000 barrels of oil -- or more -- each day since April, it has been polluting our politics with millions of dollars in campaign contributions for decades.
In the last three and a half years, the oil industry has given over $35 million dollars to the Republicans. Big Oil paid for "drill baby drill" just as surely as United Airlines paid for the naming rights of the United Center in Chicago.
by Belén Fernández
At a press briefing this morning following the massacre by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) commandos of passengers on board the Mavi Marmara, one of the boats pertaining to the Freedom Flotilla attempting to break the siege of Gaza, IDF spokeswoman Avital Liebovitch claimed that the passengers had engaged in "severe violence against our soldiers."
According to Liebovitch, the violence was premeditated and was administered via live fire, sharp items such as knives, and weapons "grabbed" from the IDF commandos. While underscoring Israel's unique ability to portray its armed forces as victims, the analysis failed to provide a compelling reason for whyif the alleged attack using grabbed weapons was indeed premeditatedthe IDF did not throw a wrench in the works by simply refraining from raiding the ship.
Apparently not satisfied with sporadic violations of logic, Liebovitch reiterated that the IDF had not desired a confrontation with the activists but that the justness of the confrontation which she herself admitted occurred "not in Israeli territory"had since been proven given the passengers' alleged reaction. The Israeli tendency to award retroactive justification to its actions was also evident during the 2008-2009 attack on Gaza, which Israel advertised as a defensive war against Palestinian rockets by severing the portion of the cause-and-effect timeline that involved deliberate Israeli violations of the ceasefire agreement with Hamas. The inversion of aggressor and victim did not of course prevent Gazan civilians from perishing in this particular confrontation at a rate of approximately 400:1 vis-à-vis their Israeli counterparts.
Holy Sweet Lord, Turkey has announced they will send another flotilla to Gaza—escorted by the Turkish Navy!
Does Israel want a war with Turkey? They can't win it, short of using nukes, and Turkey is a NATO member, if Israel attacks NATO ships, Turkey can invoke Article V (in fact, they can invoke it already, since the ships were attacked by a non NATO power on the high seas.) If Turkey does so, of course NATO nations will refuse, but doing so will break NATO.
This is high stakes.
Update: I might add that in the case of a war between Turkey and Israel, if Turkey is serious, unless Israel uses nukes, my money is on the Turks. They have a huge armored corp, and the nations between Israel and Turkey aren't going to say no if Turkey asks for access (because if they do, Turkey will just roll right through them.) Also if Turkey and Israel goes to war, it's at least 50/50 the Egypt jumps in as well.
Israel is really playing with fire on this one.
Look! It's a new, tall fence goin' up between Sarah Palin and her new neighbor, book author Joe McGinniss, who just moved there to spy on Piper on her toilet. Do you know how Joe McGinniss found this plush Wasilla masturbation cave?
Ben Smith gets hold of an email from McGinniss' son:
Sarah Palin's next-door neighbor sought out author Joe McGinniss as a tenant, McGinniss's son said.
"No one is stalking anyone," Joe McGinniss, Jr., a novelist whose father is the non-fiction writer, wrote in response to an email from a Palin supporter who confused his email address and his father's. (He shared the email with me.) "A woman was renting her house and sought out the author because the Palins had crossed her (owed her money for renovations she had done at their request and never paid her for). So she knew McGinniss was writing the book and found him and offered him the house."
Pay your debts!
New Rule: Politicians Must Be Informed of Their Rights: "Everything You Say Can and Will Be Used Against You in a Google Search"
New Rule: Before running for office, politicians must be informed of their rights: that "Everything you say can and will be used against you in a Google search." Now, of course, we all embellish our resumes a little. In college, I described my job of pot dealer as "regional sales associate for a large multi-national firm." But we just had the fifth anniversary of YouTube and the twelfth of Google, and between them, they're killing off a great institution: lying. You just can't lie anymore -- facts are too easy to check, everything is on video, and your wife put a GPS in your glove compartment. Our privacy is gone, our Internet conversations are forever. I even have reason to believe I'm being recorded right now...
Jesus once said that there was nothing hidden that would not some day be revealed, but if he was alive today, and walked on water, it would be instantly on YouTube between a skateboard accident and a turtle biting a baby's ass. And the first comment would be "fag." Twenty-four hours of new video is posted on YouTube every 60 seconds. Mostly of a girl named Kelly, showing off things she bought at Forever 21, but still...
Even when you're just at Wal-Mart in your pajamas buying condoms, someone is taking a picture of it and putting it on a website called "People at Wal-Mart Buying Condoms in Their Pajamas." And Fergie -- whenever you're doing something shady in a hotel room, of course someone is filming it. Also be aware that, without makeup, you don't look anything like you do in the Black Eyed Peas.
Politically, it's even more ridiculous to think you can lie: Richard Blumenthal, running for the Senate in Connecticut, saying he was in Vietnam when he wasn't? This isn't camp, where you can tell a lie and no one will know back home. The army keeps records.
Or John McCain saying, " I never considered myself a maverick." Which of course prompted an avalanche of video, e-mails, letters and probably telegrams of McCain bragging that he was a maverick. There's video of everything, so to think you can get away with making a speech and just pulling shit out of your ass, you'd have to be an egomaniac, a sociopath, or a world-class moron. Which brings me to Sarah Palin.
Last week she said she knows what the Gulf states are going through now because, "I have lived and worked through that Exxon Valdez oil spill." She was a 25-year-old newlywed sportscaster, living in another part of the state that didn't see any oil. She "lived and worked" through Exxon Valdez the same way Christie Brinkley lived and worked through the Iranian hostage crisis.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, some 650,000 Americans have died fighting this country's many wars. Regardless of political affiliation and ideology, every American ought reverence such selfless sacrifice and understand and share the grief that this tragic loss of life entails. Though those of us who have known war hear the cries of the dying forever in our mind and suffer the pain and loss each day of our lives and need no holiday to remind us, Memorial Day is the occasion our nation sets aside to remember, to grieve and to honor those who have sacrificed their lives on behalf of "freedom."
Air shows, "exciting" demonstrations of the high tech, billion-dollar implements of war have become an increasingly popular way to "celebrate" Memorial Day in many parts of the country. The Southern Wisconsin Air fest and Missouri's Salute to Veterans 2010 are just two examples. Attracting thousands, in some cases tens of thousands, these extravaganzas have become prime locations for military recruitment. The Army's "Strength in Action Tour" regularly exploits such events "entertaining," "informing" and ultimately motivating young people to enlist. With its enormous budget, Army recruiters set up what is, for all intents and purposes, a mobile military circus and amusement arcade. Passersby, some as young as ten years old, need only provide their contact information into the Army database to receive an array of Army recruitment material and souvenirs - personalized dog tags, T-shirts, hats, footballs etc. Once registered, students are encouraged to become "Army Strong," that is, participate in interactive physical fitness events such as climbing the "US Army Rock Wall" ("strength of body," "rock strong"), "perform virtual music" on a stage in front of their peers ("strength to lead"), operate small remote control robotic devices known as Packbots through an obstacle course ("strength of technology"), "pilot" an Apache helicopter flight simulator ("strength to soar") or "participate in a fully immersive, adrenaline-pumping, highly realistic (Humvee) experience" in which they conduct a "virtual mission," engage "insurgents" and kill them ("strength of team").
Sadly, Americans need to be reminded that Memorial Day is not about sales at the mall, barbecues and picnics. Neither is it a time to celebrate militarism, the machinery of war or entice young people, through highly manipulative and deceptive practices, into enlisting in the military. While such spectacles may be exhilarating to some and perhaps suitable for other occasions (perhaps Armed Forces Day or the Fourth of July), they are totally inappropriate and irreverent during the only time of the year set aside for remembering and grieving those who made the ultimate sacrifice, Memorial Day weekend.
Most importantly, it is not about exploiting patriotism and the sacrifices of our young servicemen and women for purposes of commercial marketing and corporate profit. The following is an excerpt from the Bethpage Federal Credit Unions 2009 New York Air Show web site, perhaps the mother of all such "celebrations" of the implements of death and destruction:
If your company would like to go beyond typical marketing ... Huge family participation coupled with the extraordinary setting makes the air show at Jones Beach a great opportunity for corporate sponsorship and VIP hospitality. Our participating sponsors link their brand with the exciting, patriotic event as they host their most valued clients, employees, family and friends in a truly first class setting. Hospitality tents lined up along the beachfront offer private beach enclosures and can be tailored to meet each sponsor's specific marketing aim ... The Business Package includes 10 Tickets to the Jones Beach VIP Tent and 4 VIP Parking Passes and you may also hang a small Corporate Banner inside the tent." Cost: $2000.00. [Emphasis added.]
If the exhilarating and orgasmic air show is not enough, revelers can also celebrate the tenth anniversary of Long Island's American Air Power Museum. On this Memorial Day weekend 2010, now renamed "Salute to the Legends of Air Power" weekend, for just $35, "you can attend an exclusive event for sponsors, VIPs and Air Show performers. A night of big band music, Warbird calendar pinups, Air Show pilot meet and greet, (view) Warbird and military aircraft, plus a private sunset Warbird flight demonstration ... It doesn't get any better than this." Well, perhaps it does. For just an additional $425, you can actually fly on a fully restored B17 aircraft, perhaps imagine yourself on a bombing mission over Dresden, Hamburg or Tokyo and about to incinerate millions of innocent civilians.
This blatant commercialization of patriotic sentiment, exploitation of Memorial Day and celebration of the killing instruments of war, demonstrates once again that the primary concern and motivation of banking and corporate executives, the primary sponsors of these spectacles, is profit.
Gary Pfleider, a six-year veteran of the Guard, received a Purple Heart after he was shot by a sniper in Iraq. Some time later, he received a somewhat less gratifying award: A bill for $3,175 for military equipment that was lost when he was shipped out of Iraq for medical treatment.
CBS affiliate KVAL in Eugene, Oregon, reports:
Pfleider feels disrespected by the charges. He said he lost sight of the gear when he left Iraq and believes he should not be responsible for it now....
Pfleider inventoried his belongings and discovered several personal items and military-issued gear, including clothing, canteens and grenades, were missing.
He believed the supervisors at his former unit in Albany had filed paperwork clearing him of the charges. But in June 2009, Pfleider received a bill for $3,175.88. Shortly afterward, the federal government began taking $120 out of his Social Security disability checks each month. Pfleider said his state and federal tax returns were also frozen.
Pfleider says he can't work because of his disability -- he walks with a cane -- and can now no longer afford to visit his daughters in Vancouver, Washington.
by Xeni Jardin
Above, this photo just posted to the Guatemalan Government's Flickr feed shows a spontaneous sinkhole ("hundimiento") 20 meters deep and 15 wide that appeared today in Zone 2 of Guatemala City, after overwhelming saturation of rains from tropical storm Agatha. Local press reports that it swallowed an entire 3-story building. Not Photoshop, sadly: these happen from time to time during major storms in part because of unstable geology, and in part, bad urban engineeringread more about it in the comments. A break in the over-stressed sewage pipes after the storm was the cause for this one. There are rumors of other sinkholes now forming nearby. See it on Google Maps. (News reports: Prensa Libre, and blogs)